Addict Music Interview – The Answering Machine

October 25, 2010 by  

Having moved to New York last year to promote their debut album ‘Another City, Another Sorry’, Manchester’s The Answering Machine return to the UK in November with their second album ‘Lifeline’. Having already released a taster in the shape of free track Animals, the new materail looks set to build on the melodic indie delights that could be found on their debut. Before its release we caught up with the band to discuss making the record, New York and the dreaded ‘Manchester’ band tag…

It’s been over year since you released your début, ‘Another City, Another Sorry’, album, what have you guys been up to?

What haven’t we been up to?! It’s been a busy year so far. We ended last year by spending a month in New York and playing CMJ Festival, and then the first couple of months of this year writing new material. We then got our heads down and recorded album two at the start of summer. We took a big leap and made the record on our own. I ended up producing it, which was really fun and exciting. I’d never done anything like this before, but we kinda figured that writing the songs and demoing them ourselves, we were only a couple of moves away from having the finished product anyway.

Your second album is out early 2011, what can we expect?

There’s definitely an interesting progression from the first album. The band was still in its infancy when we released ‘Another City, Another Sorry’, we had steam to let off, and a raucous debut album was exactly what we needed. But this album just feels so much more accomplished and fresh. We felt no limitations when writing for our second album, it seemed much easier to play with the dynamics of the songs, and to push ourselves even further. There’s a lot more layered effects and synths, more acoustics, more melodies, we’re just really chuffed with this one!

Did you approach the writing of the album differently than on your début?

‘Another City…’ was a snapshot of time, the soundtrack to our final year at university, if you will. It spoke of crazy nights out, and heavy hangovers. This album’s writing was much more eclectic. I had begun writing a lot more on an acoustic guitar, so found that my vocals had a lot more melody to them, I would sing the lyrics instead of shout the lyrics. It opened up a whole new world to us. We also picked up some old keyboards over the past year, which made their way onto the album. My favourite being a super old child’s Casio keyboard that my parents bought me when I was 12 years old. I had kept it in the loft at home, and rediscovered it. It hisses so bad, but the Romantic in me likes to think all these sounds add to the overall feel, it gives it that ‘real’ sound.

You recorded the new album on old analogue equipment and without a producer. What was the reason behind taking this to approach to recording?

We’d begun gathering some old and interesting equipment from our travels. Car boot sales mainly. Ben picked up a great little organ for a few pennies, and I found a weird keyboard in a skip on the way to rehearsal once. After we’d demoed the songs for the new record we made a list of producers we’d like to work with. We stuck my name on the end of the list, mainly as a joke. But the more we thought about it, the more it made sense. We understood what sound we wanted from this album, and I had learnt enough recording techniques to get us through. The naivety really helps keep it all fun and exciting. I think I dropped into a produce role quite easily. I’m naturally quite obsessive anyway, so it was no problem for me to play the same song a thousand times until it sounded right. I think I drove the other 3 completely mad!

Did you feel any extra pressure with the record?

I think we are very lucky to have a wonderful label backing us in Heist Or Hit. They really care for the bands on their roster, and believe that band’s should take the listener on a journey, growing and developing all the time. So this took so much pressure off the writing and recording process. We actually worked very quickly on it. The idea was to keep the continuity in the songs, so the finished album would have a distinct sound.

You lived in the US for a while last year, how do you think that affected the band and your music, especially the new material?

New York is a home from home for us. It’s such a unique city, so vibrant and multi-cultural. Spending so much time there forced us to inject our new adventures into the writing process. We have a song called ‘Hospital Lung’ on the new album, which I wrote in the back yard of our New York apartment on an acoustic guitar. It has a really eery feel to the track, quite an isolated sound. It seemed to reflect our time in New York very well. Pat then wrote some beautiful lyrics for the song which complimented this perfectly. It also flips our stomachs when we hear it, all the memories of the US flood back to us. I love how music has the power to do this.

How have you found playing the new material live and has it been received well?

It’s actually been quite phenomenal. The reaction to our new single ‘Animals’ has gone great. It’s always strange to see how new things will go down though. And especially as this new album feels a lot more personal to us.

We actually did our first acoustic in-store the other day and had to play 3 new songs. We played a track called ‘Rules’ which is extremely personal to me. Although everything we sing about is truthful, this song really hits a nerve. To see people sharing in that moment with you is a wonderful thing.

Recently, your fellow Mancunians Egyptian Hip Hop, Everything Everything and Delphic have been complaining about the association between Manchester music and Brit Bop. Do you feel that people need to move on from the ’90s and the recent ‘common’ perception of Manchester bands and artists?

I honestly find it strange and rather sad that people are still so fascinated with Manchester’s ‘glory days’ of music, and whether it will ever return. So what! I don’t think it matters if you’re from Manchester or Mumbai, if you’re making fun and innovative music then that’s all that matters. People tend to pigeon hole a band as a ‘Manchester band’. But in our rehearsal space alone we have us, Hurts, Young British Artists, Dutch Uncles, Wu Lyf. Most of these bands aren’t even in the same book, let alone on the same page. But that’s what make things so vibrant.

Finally, what’s coming up next for you guys?

We’re busy bees at the moment. We’ve just set off on a mini UK tour, heading to London, Glasgow, Manchester and Aberdeen this week. Then we head out to Europe in mid November to tour with Tokyo Police Club. We will hopefully be heading back to the US in December or maybe early next year to do some more shows too.

I’ve also just finished a remix for The Wombats and recently remixed our own song ‘Animals’, which is now available online for free. We’ll then be releasing our new album ‘Lifeline’ in January 2011.


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